The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 25: Monumental Possibilities

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June 25, 2020-

I see that Arizona’s Confederate Memorial, ensconced on the State Capitol’s Wesley Bolin Plaza, is cleaned up and the focus of more civil protests than that of a lone vandal, who splashed red paint all over it. The namesake of the Plaza himself had a checkered record on Civil Rights, having grown up in a rural area of west central Missouri, and adopting a “live and let live” attitude towards the former Confederacy. He readily permitted the erection of this monument, in 1962, and spoke at its dedication. At the same time, he did not stand in the way of the advances made by nonwhite people in Arizona, after the passages of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Many argue that Confederate forces were fighting against the United States of America. The heart of the matter is a bit more disconcerting. They were fighting FOR a vision of the United States that was doomed to failure-secession or no secession; victory over the North, or not. Chattel slavery was either abolished, or on its way to abolition, in the countries which had fueled the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, in the first place-by the time Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, in 1863. This table gives a complete account of the installation and abolition of both slavery and serfdom, from ancient times: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_abolition_of_slavery_and_serfdom

It remains, though, that slavery is reprehensible, in all its forms. There is much to be done, in eliminating the chattel aspect of imprisonment, for example. Finally, there is enough civic awareness for people to recognize that the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution contains a loophole:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The involuntary servitude part has been used as justification for inmate labour, for nearly 140 years. More people than is often recognized have been incarcerated for relatively minor offenses, and the majority of these have been Black-or Native American.

Last July, I visited the South Carolina State Museum. It has, in aquiet corner of the first floor, a Cofederate Relic Room and Military Collection. There, and in small museums in Charleston and Greenville, is where the first state to secede from the Union, in 1861, has chosen to present its Confederate past. There are statues around the state, as there are across the South-and across the nation. These will continue to be problematic, as we move towards a true sense of unity in diversity.

My own thought is that, no matter where the statues, flags and memorabilia of the Confederate past are presently found, they are best placed in a current, or future, museum of history- or National Historical Monument. There is already a Museum of the Confederacy, that is nested under the National Museum of Civil Rights. No one is proposing razing Confederate cemeteries, or closing our National memorials to the event, anymore than we would want the institutions that commemorate the War for Independence, French & Indian War, the conflicts between First Nations and settlers, or the Holocaust of World War II, to be shuttered and forgotten. Conflict is a hard teacher, but it is a true one, and must remain so, if we are to avoid reverting to the very behaviours that brought on the conflicts of the past, in the first place.

We are already witnessing severe proposals, across the country-to remove memorials to just about every historical figure who had blind spots, when it came to some, or all, people who weren’t white. This has extended to other parts of the world, as well. Washington, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt despised Native Americans; U.S. Grant was of two minds towards the original inhabitants of this country; Churchill despised anyone who wasn’t European; Gandhi had to overcome his bigotry towards Africans. When it comes down to it, most of us have had to go through personal growth, when understanding and fully accepting people who “don’t look like us”.

Nelson Mandela had it right: Reconciliation, not revenge, is the most promising path forward.

Fair Columbia

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June 25-26, 2019, Columbia, SC-

Fifty years ago, I found myself among thirty or so young men, some a bit more worldly than I, others as green to the ways of the world as yours truly.  We were the trainees of Echo Company, Third Battalion, First Brigade, at Fort Jackson.  There were times that I broke down in the tears of an under-challenged, immature novice to life. There were times that I tried to avoid the challenges that, deep-down, I knew I needed to overcome.  In the end, I managed to overcome my own physical challenges and the constant ridicule from the jaded First Sergeant- and earned the respect of most everyone else.  I was a better person for the time spent here.

Once here, planted for what I thought was a day, at Palmetto Inn, east of town, I got messages from faithful readers, advising as to what I might do in the town.  Among these was word of a Wednesday evening event at a coffee shop, sounding as if it were sponsored by local Baha’is. So, I took the room at Palmetto for two nights.

The day started with a passable breakfast at George’s Southside Restaurant, hearing the plaint that I am finding increasingly common, in the workplaces along the road, this summer:  “I’m alone here, hon.  Please be patient, one co-worker quit and the other overslept. ”

In planning my day here, I focused first on the South Carolina State Museum, then the area around the Capitol and, rather whimsically, thinking I might pay a visit to Fort Jackson.  This last, of course, would not be realized.  Military posts are very well-guarded, even against visits by veterans.

I had a tip from a friend who had also spent time on Fort Jackson, to visit a fine dining spot, with an unlikely name.  Before going to the museum, I followed up on this recommendation.

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Motor Supply Bistro is a gem of a place.  I sat at the bar, for lunch, as I frequently do, when dining alone.  Bars and counters are a great place to feel at home, in an eatery, as one connects with both workers and with other solo diners.  I made several new friends here, as a result and the food is delectable.   There is valet parking here, and the attendant found himself being both ignored and blocked in, by a surly delivery truck driver, when he went to retrieve my car.  I tipped him for his trouble and faced down the ruffian, myself.  I did not get ignored and my car was off the lot, in short order.  I don’t take kindly to my contemporaries treating younger people with such contempt.

The South Carolina State Museum is worthy of at least two hours’ visit.  I focused on the Museum’s take on the Civil War, which was a bit less top-heavy on defending the Confederacy, than I had thought might be the case, before visiting, and on the various industries that took root, after the War, in both the Piedmont and Low Country regions of the state.

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It is always a joy to see the work of students, in public museums.

Here is a map of South Carolina, prepared by children in a Columbia school.

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There is a fine little area that tells the story of Palmetto State paleontology.  The region had its share of dinosaurs-and of megamammals.  Here are an Albertosaurus skeleton

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and a Glyptodont, or giant armadillo.

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The rails were critical here, moving textiles and lumber, even before the Civil War.  This long car was called the Friend of Charleston.

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Textiles were able to be more efficiently produced, by machines such as this.

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The processing and de-shelling of nuts, a major cash crop, was abetted by this machine.

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Coastal hardwoods were much in demand, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century.  This device helped greatly, in hauling cut timber’

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The Catawba people, who lived in the Columbia area, prior to European settlement, produced basketry and intriguing wood carvings, as part of their cultural legacy.

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Here is a mock-up of a traditional Catawba house.

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Finally, I ended my photo-journey around Columbia, by visiting the Capitol grounds.  There are a few statues in honour of the Confederates, but my interest there was the State Capitol as a whole.

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The day ended with a lively poetry and visual media session at Cool Beans Coffee House.  The person who had invited me never showed, but I was made to feel welcome by the program’s hosts, so Columbia left me with a warm feeling.  Gamecocks are good people.

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